A lot of you have shown interest in wanting to help and volunteer and do whatever you can personally to fight the issue of violence against women. That’s spectacular. We want to share with you a few very specific ways that you can help fight this issue – and it might not look the way you were expecting. It may surprise you or catch you off guard.
We understand that female identifying people aren’t the only ones who are targeted in these situations, but the MAJORITY (not all) of those who assault others are male, and that’s the problem. So, that being said…
Men and male presenting people arguably have the most influential voice when it comes to holding people accountable and making a change.
You are, believe it or not, the most vital components of our movement. Survivors and advocates can work HARD on helping other survivors heal once the trauma has already occurred – BUT we cannot make them any safer / prevent other situations from occuring.
Think of it this way; you cannot erase the damage in a burning house once it’s already lit up – you can stop the person who is about to light it before the damage is done, or you can help afterwards by building a new home to replace the old, although building a new home doesn’t stop arsons from lighting other fires. To stop the destruction of arson, you need to either lock up arsons or teach them to respect other people’s property.
We, as women, cannot influence perpetrators, as they do not respect us to begin with. The key elements in what will be the destruction of r*pe culture – must be, non-negotiably completed by MEN and male-presenting individuals.
We not only want, but NEED you on our team.
If you want your mothers, sisters, daughters and other loved ones to live in a country where the statistics of sexual assault are any better than 1 in 3.. It will be YOUR job to change culture and make that a reality.
(Yes – as of now – 1 in 3 women in Canada are sexually assaulted in their lifetime).
That sounds like a large responsibility, doesn’t it? It’s not as much as you think. It’s one of those things where each individual needs to do their own part in their own circle. The statistic of how many men commit sexual assault at least once in their lifetime in North America is 1 in 16. I’m sure you come in contact with many more than 16 other men in your lives on a regular basis, and so its highly probable that many people you come into contact with regularly have committed sexual violence against women and children (maybe even other men!).
You get to influence those people’s lives, and it must be you, because we cannot.
They didn’t listen to our voices when we told them NO so why would they listen when we condemn their actions after the fact?
It’s not enough to just not assault people. We need you to ACTIVELY be anti-sexual violence.
BELIEVE YOUR SURVIVOR FRIENDS.
If they need you to testify as a witness in their case, do it. If they tell you what happened – ask what you can do to help them – and do it. Show up when, where and how they need you to. Questioning them does no one any good. It changes nothing. You do not need to understand how things happened, you just need to understand that they DID happen.
STAND UP TO YOUR FRIENDS WHEN THEY UPHOLD R*PE CULTURE.
If you hear or see your friends do or say anything that promotes violence or objectification of women – call it out. Be the bigger person. Don’t laugh at the jokes. If a girl looks uncomfortable with your friend or with something he is doing, pull him away. When he is sober and capable of understanding, talk to him about how it’s not okay to push himself onto people when they are not interested or seem uncomfortable. If you know your friend did something… don’t be too fearful to report him. Reach out to the survivor if you know them and ask if they want to pursue the police, because if they do you will vouch for them. If they say no, respect their wishes but call out your friend. Then consider not being friends with people like that. Make a statement of how that is NOT cool or acceptable behaviour and you will have no business associating yourself with that. You may think to yourself right now ‘of course I’d do that’ but it’s shocking how many people get to that moment and become fearful of upsetting their friend group and ‘causing drama’. That narrative needs to switch to: Your predator friend caused the drama. It’s all on him and you are just standing up for justice and for the rights of another human being. When you don’t call out your predator friends, you unintentionally enable them to continue their behaviour. They will feel affirmed that what they are doing is okay. If you are letting people believe that predatory behaviour is okay, you are contributing to r*pe culture and – to be bold – saying that that harassment and violence is normal and acceptable to be used on the women in YOUR life as well. If you wouldn’t be okay with him treating you or someone you love like that, call it out.
BE SOMEONE YOUR MALE FRIENDS WOULD FEEL SAFE TELLING IF THEY WERE ASSAULTED.
Sexual violence happens to men too, and it’s rarely spoken of because men have different cultural stigmas : It’s (wrongly) more difficult for them to be vulnerable. Other men are rarely safe spaces for these much needed conversations. Men can often fear being viewed as weak or submissive or small when they need to be vulnerable… toxic masculinity makes men feel like they need to be alpha and big and strong.
The strongest thing is the most difficult thing, and the most difficult thing is being vulnerable.
It’s also the most healing and daring thing. Be a safe place for your male friends. Let your friends know that their emotions can always be safe with you. Don’t laugh at them when they say something deep. Hug them when they cry. Try to empathize with their pain. Now, how do you let them know that you will be a safe person to go to? You have to show them. Be vulnerable with YOUR pain. Talk about what’s on YOUR heart. Tell them what shaped you as a person; about the key moments in your life – good and bad. When you are sad, let them see you sad. If you are first vulnerable, they will know they can be the same with you.
BREAK THE STIGMA Pt 1.
We dare you to speak out against this issue. Not just when your friends are speaking disrespectfully towards women – but also – just because. Share statistics on Facebook. Share our stories that we post on this website. Follow accounts that advocate against sexual violence. Share their posts on Instagram. Wear it on your sleeve that you stand against these issues. Standing up doesn’t make you “soft” or any less of a man. It’s not weird for men to talk about or be passionate about this issue. Do you want the world safer for your wife/girlfriend? Wear that. You being with a partner does not make them safer. A ring on her finger does NOT automatically protect her. Women get assaulted at work, at church, at school, on busses – all over the place. If you want her to be able to exist in a world where she can feel comfortable enough to walk across a parking lot after the sun goes down, again – it starts in your own personal bubble. Influence those around you and make it loud that harassment and violence towards women is UNACCEPTABLE.
BREAK THE STIGMA Pt. 2
If you are a male who has survived sexual assault, you can help break the stigma and the silence around male assault by submitting a story on our blog to be shared. It can be anonymous, it can be on your own terms, but having men share their experience could help other men who have been through something similar. Since it’s so silenced in our culture – male victims could very well not know that there are so many others like them. We are here for all survivors of sexual assault. To show the whole spectrum of the problem. If you feel healthy and well enough, and like perhaps it could bring you some freedom and strength to claim the narrative on your story and allow it to help heal others – we would be honoured to share it. 1 in 9 men experience sexual assault in their lifetime! That’s still a very high statistic. You are not alone. It should be normalized to have men feel like they can go get therapy and counselling and prescriptions to manage their PTSD and other struggles. They shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of telling others about it either! We hope that this culture of pressure surrounding men will be broken. We promise to do our part in this, to be a safe place and an ally of those in this position.
This can be to places like our organization, or others fighting the issue of sexual violence against women, like WAVAW in Vancouver. Fund the people who are doing the work that you cannot. Read our page to learn more about other hands-on ways you can take immediate action if waiting for an opportunity to speak up is taking too long if your friend bubble is filled with good dudes.
If you read this whole post, we commend you. Thank you for doing the bare minimum. That wasn’t a “roast”, we genuinely thank you for listening and trying to understand how you can help. Most – even “good” men – will read the title and skip past it, and that’s just the truth. They saw a post from an organization that’s very vocal about experiences with assault, and thought to themselves that it’s terrible that women are harassed and attacked. They might hope that others step up to the plate. You did. Thank you. We understand that many men don’t think sexual violence against women is a man’s issue. It has the word ‘woman’ right in it! For respectable people, they might not think twice about it or what their part in fighting it might be until they learn. And they won’t learn until they listen. And that’s you today. Again, thank you.
We hope that you did learn and that you take some of this away with you. Sit with it, meditate on it, read it again if you need to. Think about moments of your life where you COULD HAVE spoken up. Forgive yourself for those moments but make a promise to yourself today that you will respond differently next time.
OH, and if you are a parent – teach your kids about consent. Teach your boys not to r*pe / to respect other people – all genders – as human beings. We have been teaching girls how NOT to get raped for a very long time, yet statistics only go UP. It doesn’t work, because the victims aren’t the ones causing the problem. Teach consent.
If you want to speak with someone about this – if you want to learn how to help, don’t like something we said or have questions about it – please respectfully reach out to us. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We would love to speak with you about all this. We are not against men in this organization. We might be harsh on you sometimes, because we need to get our point across and get people to realize the issue. We’re angry, and hope you are too. We’re tired of hearing people try to justify situations by making comments like “what were they wearing? Why did they go out? What did they think was going to happen?”
We demand respect, safety and security, but it’s getting exhausting to continuously have to fight for something that should automatically be given. Don’t get us wrong, we will continue to be vocal about these things, but your voice can make more of a dent in society than you realize. We know that there are good men, and we know that they have the power to make a difference – and now you are one of them. Change starts with you.
So, what’re you going to do about it?
-R + K